Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part five

I’ve just realised something – few, if any, of the scenarios I’ve come up with for Murph stories have been inspired by my experiences with actual cats! I love kitty-cats, and I’ve befriended any number of furry felines in my time…. but the adventures of Murph T. Catt seem to have arisen in spite of their presence, rather than because of them. I can certainly credit Jim Davis’ Garfield for his influence, in terms of anthropomorphic animals and snappy dialogue; but Murph’s personality and interaction with the rest of the A-team cast (especially Gene and Newton) appears to be the main well of inspiration for his strips, rather than cats per se. Not that he doesn’t face the same driving issues as Earthly felines, of course….

2003 5_1
Top: wow, if I had a time machine right now, I’d go back to 2003…. and make myself think of a better punchline for this joke. It was supposed to be a hilarious misunderstanding by Murph of what Gene was talking about, but it just seems so…. contrived. To say nothing of the clunkiness of the dialogue, which also doesn’t help. The only problem is: what to replace it with? ‘Shots’ as in tequila? ‘Shots’ as in photos?
Some other, completely different reaction? I have a feeling
I wrote myself into a corner on this one….

Bottom: the ‘Can Gene understand what Murph is saying’ debate rages on! You would imagine that since Murph is ‘think-talking’ ala Garfield, his owner would not be able to hear any of it (and in earlier strips, that certainly seems to be the case) – but in panel four, Gene is responding directly to Murph’s question! Oh well, maybe in between Point A and Point B, Gene simply learned how to speak ‘Cat’…. Yeh, let’s go with that one.

2003 5_2
Top: when I originally sketched out the idea for this strip, Artie and Gene’s roles were reversed; and it was Mr. Deacon’s fate to be constricted. However, it occurred to me that A) Artie doesn’t deserve that sort of treatment, B) Murph would be more likely to latch onto Gene in such a stressful situation, and C) it was far funnier if Gene was the one in dire straits, as it continued the pattern from the previous strips. Murph had hardly made reaching the vet a pleasant experience for his owner, so why would he stop heaping frustration on him once they got there?

Bottom: I think we can all agree that waiting to get an injection is just as terrifying as the moment they jam it in, right? It’s the whole ‘anticipation anxiety’ thing – why do we have to sit there waiting for so long? Does stewing in our fear-sweat for twenty minutes somehow make the vaccine work better, or something? And why on earth do they think saying ‘Don’t worry, it won’t hurt a bit’ will make it any less worse? You are inserting a razor-sharp sliver of metal Into Our Flesh!! We feel your pain, Murph.

2003 5_3
Top: I’m not sure where Jim Davis got the idea for ‘cats singing on the fence at night’ from (regardless of how many creative ideas he’s got from it) – any time I’ve heard cats caterwauling at midnight, they haven’t been singing, or howling at the moon…. they’ve been about to beat seven shades of spit out of one another for being on someone else’s turf! Still, Murph is content to follow the grand Garfield-ian tradition,
so I suppose I can’t complain….

Bottom: pop quiz, Cosmos fans – how many fingers is Newton supposed to have? If you answered ‘three’, then you’re clearly more knowledgeable than I was when I drew these strips! Of all the characters in the A-team cast, Newton has probably had the most inconsistencies in his design over time: he’s had three-toed and two-toed feet, a stripy and non-stripy belly, four-fingered and three-fingered hands; and a tail that’s been thick and banded on the underside (like Murph’s), thin and stripy and thin and non-stripy. Poor guy.

2003 5_4
Top: Murph is always ready to take advantage of unexpected circumstances when attempting to secure extra food at mealtimes – even if it’s a resource as ephemeral as a sneeze. Oh, sorry, were you going to eat that? Ugh, well, you won’t want to eat it now, will you? Still, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands….

Bottom: what does Newton do when he’s not hanging out with Murph? He indulges his passion for Packratology, of course! I wanted to expand Newton’s CV beyond ‘hapless comedy sidekick’, so I gave him a hobby that comes naturally from his nosy, inquisitive nature: rooting around in junk yards and trash heaps for nifty-looking artefacts to add to his collection (mostly stored under the shed in Artie’s back yard). He has an almost savant-like ability to find rare and unique items without even trying – which came in handy in later years, hunting down raw materials for Macy’s junk sculptures!

2003 5_5
Top: sticking their pets in hideously-embarrassing ‘outfits’ may be fine for some pet owners (including Gene, apparently), but both Murph and I clearly agree that the practice is frankly shameful – especially since said pets rarely get a say in whether they want to wear these ‘fashionable’ items or not! A cat-sweater for Murph, by the looks of things, basically amounts to a giant neon-coloured tube sock…. hardly surprising, then, that he doesn’t want to be seen in public with it.

Bottom: on the other hand, there are clear advantages to living with Gene – namely, you have access to the best electronics and audio equipment money can buy! The other neighbourhood cats simply can’t compete….

2003 5_6
Top: the firm friendship between Murph and Newton is one of the wonderfully counterintuitive things about Cosmos – in any other universe, they’d either be chasing each other around with cartoon mallets and dynamite; or Murph would be on an obsessive quest to turn Newton (and Newton alone) into lunch. But not here, though! Nonetheless, they are both aware of their ‘expected’ roles in nature, and Murph is clearly not above giving Newton’s gullibility a tweak now and again. He’s just funnin’ you, dude!

Bottom: you nkow that condescending look your cat gives you when you serve him up the same el cheapo cat food for the third night in a row, right before that turn their nose up and swagger off? Well, just be thankful you don’t have Murph to look after – being somewhat more sentient than the average house cat, he’s turned impromptu dining critiques into an art form!


Critter Cards 1

24) Card conceptsTo enhance the collectability aspect of the Adventure Pack, I decided to create a set of ‘Cosmos Critter Cards’ – featuring creatures that either featured in the story or existed in the same environment detailed in the story. And you know what that means…. more lovely concepts for me to draw!

Adventure Pack box 2

Adventure pack box dustjacket.inddIf there’s one thing the Adventure Pack needed, it was some effective and eye-catching packaging – and this is it! The symbol in the centre of the front panel is the mounting point for a genuine, working compass (an essential piece of kit for any aspiring explorer), which projects through a hole cut in the middle of the symbol; which was probably the most nerve-wracking circle I’ve ever had to cut out in my life, given that it had to be absolutely, totally perfect….

Cosmos: Old School (2003) – part four

Ax banner
Boy oh boy, do Artie and Gene love their movies. As long as I’ve known them – Artie since childhood, and Gene since he moved to Pago Grandé in early 1999 – the Dynamic Duo have always been keen followers of the latest cinematic releases; whether superhero,
sci-fi, fantasy or horror. Back in the Old School days, Jon tired his best to follow along with the big movies of the year, crafting several stories focused around our experiences with a specific release: such as Star Wars : Episode One (2001, part 16 and 17), and Jurassic Park 3 (2001, part 20). And in 2003, we got to get our Marvel on….

2003 4_1
Top: the guys are quoting directly from the blurb of the Incredible Hulk comics of the 1990’s (especially during the stellar run by Peter David!) here, much to Macy’s dismay. Given that they couldn’t possibly find a better way to introduce the story, they decided to go for it, copyright infringement or not!

Bottom: given that this was one of the earlier Marvel movies of the 21st century, and 99% of the characters in previous films were played by actual people, the prospect of a CG hulk was still a big deal at the time – so stop laughing! Yeh, it’s as common as muck now, but back then, simply not cheaping out on a guy in green body paint was a revelation. Oh, and a note from Jon – he came up with the ideas for most of these strips before he’d seen the movie; but after watching it, he changed the scene in panel four from a generic ‘guy tries to mug Bruce Banner in an alley’ to an actual scene from the film: Bryan Talbot beating up Bruce while he’s in captivity in the underground military facility. But shouldn’t Talbot have a moustache, Jon?

2003 4_2
Top: ahh, spoilers – both the best thing and the worst thing to happen to movie nerds in the electronic age. Isn’t it crazy that movies can be pre-judged (and often pre-rejected) before they’ve even been released; based solely on a teaser trailer and some concept art? Quite a few have been justifiably trashed, I have to say – but that’s a whole ‘nother story! Artie and Gene, though, will take all the info they can get….

Bottom: I swear, it took several days for Macy to stop giggling over Gene’s ‘Hulk hands’ incident – every time she so much as glanced at him, she’d collapse in fits of laughter. I hate to say this, Gene, but I have to thank the guy at the toyshop: that was the best mood Macy had been in all month!

2003 4_3
Above: Macy described the situation to me thus – “Having assembled some disturbing shrine of Hulk merchandise they’d bought over the past week, Artie and Gene tasked me – for some dumb reason – to dash off and get a couple of magazines they Had To Have Right Now, so they’d be free to pre-book their movie tickets. Following their wonderfully micro-managed instructions (‘Make sure it’s a first printing, with the metallic-green Hulk logo, not plain matte….’), I returned only to find they’d both turned into crazy fighting monsters and were smashing holes in Artie’s house! See?! This is why I’ve resisted Geekism for so long – the deeper you go, the crazier the stuff that happens to you! I don’t want to become an orange rock-monster, you know?” Aw, but you’d look adorable….

2003 4_4
Top: the big ‘Vs.’ matches of the Marvel Universe are always great fun – Hulk vs. Thing, Wolverine vs. Sabretooth, Angaar the Screamer vs….. uh…. Frog-man…. So why not go whole-hog with them here? I think we went through most of our monthly sound effects budget with this story, though – but it was worth it!

Bottom: enter – Me! When Macy rang me up with the special call-sign Bad Moon Rising (code for ‘Artie and Gene are doing something stupid and possibly catastrophic for national security’), I knew it was time to make for Casa del Artie with all due haste. What I had not expected, however, was to walk in on a live-action reenactment of Fantastic Four #25 when I got there! And to answer your question in panel four, Macy:
yes, my dear, I’m very much afraid that you are….

2003 4_5
Above: uh oh – if there’s one thing a large-scale super-slugfest is sure to attract, it’s a star-studded range of guest stars…. at which point (especially in a throw-everything-in-and-run Jon Kay story), it’s pretty much a slippery slope into Crossover County. And where did all these off-brand nutcases come from, anyway? Was there a cosplay convention in town we somehow didn’t know about? The interesting thing is, they’re all from Marvel movies that accompanied Ang Lee’s Hulk film into cinemas: the X-men, Spiderman, Daredevil and Elektra. I think Jon was trying to cash in on multiple movies
for the price of one here, don’t you?

2003 4_6
Top: Chaos! Madness! Optic blasts! Punching! I think there’s enough superhero battle action going on in the first two panels to fill an olympic-size swimming pool! (Yeh, that’s right, Daring-devil; take on Storm. That’s not going to end horribly for you, or anything.) Hang on, why am I yelling “Briiiiiing!!” in panel three? Bring? Bring what?
Oh, wait, I see what’s going on….

Bottom: seriously, Jon, the old ‘It was a Dream’ cliché?! Really, I must say I thought you had more writerly creativity than that – even back in 2003! And if Macy dreamed the whole thing (for a non-geek, she sure seems to go on a fair few pop culture-themed vision quests, doesn’t she?), does that mean I wasn’t actually in the story at all? How does this affect my pay? Does it count as overtime, or is there some clause that’s going to cheat me out of an extra five bucks an hour? Ugh, Cartoon Class is hard….


Adventure Pack box 1

22) Box designNow that the ‘Rainforest, Ho!’ book is complete, we need something to put it in – and thus we find ourselves some concepts for the Adventure Pack box!

Rainforest, Ho! 16

20) Explorers Inc spreads16Get your bucket and spade and beach blanket ready…. ’cause we’ve reached the coast! And, incidentally, the end of our journey….

Rainforest, Ho! 15

19) Explorers Inc spreads15Based on some of the wonderful diagrams I saw in science-and-nature books when I was a kid, welcome to the second most time-consuming-but-fun spread in the story!

Rainforest, Ho! 14

18) Explorers Inc spreads14Everyone hop in your canoes, kayaks and inflatable rubber rafts…. ’cause we’re going on a river expedition! And no, if you get eaten by a giant fish monster or swept down the rapids, it’s not our fault – you remember all those forms you had to sign, right? The ones with the reeeeeeally samll fine print? Heh heh….